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Vera Scantlebury Brown (1889–1946)

Death Of Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown

Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown, OBE, Director of Maternal, Infant, and Pre-school Welfare in Victoria, died yesterday after a long illness. The story of her life is the story of infant welfare work in this state.

Since 1926, when she was appointed Director of Infant Welfare, and for years beforehand, Dr Scantlebury Brown worked untiringly to reduce the infant mortality rate in Victoria, and it was mainly due to her efforts that the rate dropped in 20 years from 73.8 a 1,000 deaths to 35.8.

Daughter of the late Dr and Mrs G. J. Scantlebury, Dr Scantlebury Brown was bom at Linton in 1889 She was educated at Toorak College and graduated from Melbourne University in 1913.

At the end of 1916, she went to England as an officer of the RAMC, and on her return to Melbourne in 1918 became resident medical officer at the Women's Hospital; also honorary physician at Queen Victoria Hospital.

On her return to Melbourne in 1918, she became resident medical officer at the Women's Hospital; also honorary physician at Queen Victoria Hospital and to out-patients at the Children's Hospital, honorary medical officer to the Victorian Baby Health Association, and medical officer of the Free Kindergarten Union.

In 1923 she took her MD degree and went to USA. Canada, and New Zealand to investigate child welfare methods. After another visit to NZ in 1925 on behalf of the Victorian Government, she and Dr Henrietta Main made recommendations which led to the formation of the Infant Welfare Division of the Public Health Department. Dr Scantlebury Brown has been its one and only director, and many of her recommendations have become law.

Dr Scantlebury Brown's report on infant welfare to the National Health and Research Council in 1937 so impressed the Prime Minister of the day (Mr Lyons) that it was decided to allocate the £100,000 Coronation Commemoration Grant for the benefit of the pre-school children of the Commonwealth.

In 1938 the Australian Association of Pre-school Child Development was established, together with the Lady Gowrie Child Centres. The splendid preventive work carried out at these centres in all states was largely the result of Dr Scantlebury Brown's efforts. She received the OBE in 1938 in recognition of her distinguished work in preventive medicine.

In 1944 pre-school activities, including payment of subsidies to free kindergartens, were also placed under her supervision, and her vision and enthusiasm achieved a further success in 1945, when the State Government decided to bring under the Health Department the care of expectant mothers and all children to six years of age.

Dr Scantlebury Brown is survived by her husband, Professor E. B. Brown, professor of engineering, Melbourne University, and a son and daughter of school age.

The funeral will leave the residence, 404 Barkers rd. Hawthorn East, after a service that will begin at 1pm today, for Cheltenham Cemetery.

Original publication

Citation details

'Scantlebury Brown, Vera (1889–1946)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Scantlebury, Vera

6 August, 1889
Linton, Victoria, Australia


14 July, 1946 (aged 56)
Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (not specified)

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.